By KEVIN HARRIS
LONG POND, Pa. —
Highlanders focused on reaching state finals
Floyd Central returns top five players from last year’s squad
BY KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS — The Floyd Central girls’ golf team has a simple objective this season — qualify for the IHSAA State Finals.
With all five players in their starting lineup back, the Highlanders think this is the year they will return to state as a team for the first time since 2007.
“I think we’ll be greatly disappointed if we don’t make it to state,” Floyd Central coach Lenny Hartlage said. “They should be ready.”
Leading the Highlanders’ state finals quest will be last year’s News and Tribune Area Player of the Year Eliza Hudson. The senior dramatically qualified for state as an individual last year when she made a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole of her round at the Evansville Memorial Regional.
In her first state appearance, Hudson finished 47th in the two-round state tournament at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin with a score of 167, 23-over-par.
The Highlanders have two other seniors in Scarlett Hartlage and Ashley Dankovich. Junior Morgan Stanley and sophomore Jessica Ingram are expected to make key contributions to the squad.
Lenny Hartlage also says that sophomore Gretchen Garrett and freshman Sydney LaDuke could see a few opportunities in the starting lineup.
Coach Hartlage says his top five players are all hitting the ball longer entering the season thanks to the offseason tournaments each golfer competed in. One of the reasons for the increase in length is each player teed off from the men’s tees during their respective summer tourneys.
“I think our length will be better. They’re all hitting the ball longer,” Coach Hartlage said. “We’ve got to be hitting drives between 240-260 yards.”
Lenny Hartlage thinks there are two key factors for his squad is to reach the state finals.
First, the Highlanders have got to be efficient in the chipping and putting departments.
“What separates decent teams from bad teams is the short game. That’s going to be the difference,” Coach Hartlage said. “We’ve got to keep working at it. The summer tournaments helped them with that. When they get on a tougher golf course, they won’t be fazed by it.”
Second, the Floyd Central golfers have got to be focused on the task at hand and not look too far ahead.
“We’ve got to take one tournament at a time and one shot at a time,” the elder Hartlage said. “We can’t think that we’re going to win this tournament easily. We’ve got to have our heads screwed on right or we’re going to get our butts beat.”
A difficult schedule should make the Highlanders battle-tested when the postseason arrives. Floyd Central will play in a handful of tough 18-hole tournaments, which include the Seymour Invitational, the Fuzzy Zoeller Invitational, the Jasper Wildcat Invitational and the Center Grove Invitational.
Coach Hartlage expects the Highlanders to be in the running to win the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Shadowood Golf Course in Seymour. He says Madison and Columbus East will be Floyd Central’s toughest competition.
OTHER AREA TEAMS
The Bulldogs will be vying for their third consecutive sectional championship this season, as they have four of their top five players back.
Junior Heidi Steinert will lead New Albany as she finished second in the individual standings in last year’s New Albany Sectional at Valley View Golf Club in Floyds Knobs.
The three other returning players are senior Haley Roth, junior Franci Burton and sophomore Chloe Watts. But Burton will be out for the first half of the season due to an injury, giving opportunities for New Albany’s younger players to crack the starting lineup.
Two freshmen could see some time in the lineup in Alyssa Kane and Juliet Gahan.
“I have high hopes for this team,” said New Albany coach Rick Belcher, who earned last year’s News and Tribune Area Coach of the Year honor. “We have some challenges to overcome. But if we work hard, we can be very competitive. Franci will likely miss the first half of the season from injury, and finding who will fill the four and five positions on the team will be tough. I’m looking for some players to step up and work hard to earn those spots.”
Like the Highlanders, the Bulldogs have a tough schedule as well.
New Albany, which will have several meetings with Floyd Central, will play in the Fuzzy Zoeller Invite and the Connersville Invitational. Belcher also expects the HHC Tournament to be competitive this season.
Four sophomores return to the Pioneers’ starting lineup this season after they went through some growing pains as freshmen last year.
The sophomore quartet consists of Colleen Geldermann, Brooklin Grantz, Nicole Kruer and Mary Ann Fitzpatrick. Providence coach Michelle Landis also expects contributions from freshman Alexa Wilson.
Landis said the Pioneers improve throughout the course of the season last year. In 2012, their team score at the season-ending New Albany Sectional was 59 strokes lower than their score at their season opener, the Fuzzy Zoeller Invite at Covered Bridge Golf Club in Sellersburg.
“We have a young team, but we’re catching up with [their opponents],” Landis said. “We expect to keep improving this year.”
Even though his roster is relatively young, Dragons’ coach Joe Ledbetter thinks he has enough experienced players to have a competitive squad. Ledbetter says the experience level of his team compares to his 2010 squad that qualified for regional.
Silver Creek will be led by sophomores Charlotte Seaton and Lilly Smith. Seaton was two shots away from making it out of the New Albany Sectional last season.
The other returning players are senior Emily Christman, junior Janie Rogers and sophomores Kaela Roberts and Hannah McGrath. Ledbetter says he has four freshmen who show some promise in Liv Schmidt, Ashton Crutcher, Hanna Warren and Keslyn Howard.
Ledbetter says the team’s goals are to win the Mid-Southern Conference Tournament and advance to the regional.
“This season’s outlook I think is bright,” Ledbetter said. “We now have a nucleus of experienced players, including at least two who played tournament golf during the summer, those being Charlotte Seaton and Lilly Smith. With those two leading the way, I believe the others will be pulled along and keep improving. This is a great group with great attitudes toward wanting to improve their golf game. I have high hopes for this team.”
The Musketeers welcome back two returning players in senior Hannah Ingram and sophomore Katelynn Cottongim. Juniors Mary Carlton and Kaliegh Hagen are newcomers to the squad.
“I look forward to seeing the girls further develop into great golfers,” Eastern coach Rhonda McGee said. “This is Hannah’s third year and she is becoming very consistent and a team leader. Katelynn has worked hard and has greatly improved over last year. We should be more competitive this year and look to improving as a team as our new golfers gain experience.”
Red Devil boys’ golf coach Dusty Corum has taken over the reins of the Jeff girls’ golf team this season.
Corum has three veteran players in senior Madison Kane and juniors Jiffy Bishop and Janesse Brooner. Kane missed qualifying for regional last year by one stroke.
“That was by far her best showing last season,” Corum said. “I’m looking for her to make it out of sectional this year. As for the other two, I’m looking for improvement from each one. I hope to get them consistently in the 40s.”
Corum says his team will have a hard time fielding a complete team in most matches due to a lack of numbers.
Senior Marissa Knoebel is the Pirates’ lone returning player this year. Charlestown coach Adam Doherty expects her to be more competitive this season after she worked hard on her game this summer.
“She has put in a lot of time over the summer, playing in leagues and different local tournaments, and I think she will be much improved from last year,” Doherty said. “I am looking for her to be one of the top golfers in the [Mid-Southern] conference.”
Sophomore Miranda DeKorte and senior Amber Skaggs are the lone returning players for the Generals. DeKorte got lots of course time as a freshman last year, while Skaggs has played sparingly the past two seasons because of injuries. Senior Brittany Moore is a newcomer to the squad.
The Braves return seniors Christina Fink and Sarah Potter this season. Fink was a third-team selection to the News and Tribune All-Area team last season.
Note: Christian Academy, Henryville and Rock Creek Academy will not be fielding teams this season.